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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Every year, I ask myself whether or not it's going to come together on opening day or if it's going to be more of a persistent slog to get an animal. This isn't to say that there isn't a lot of work and time put in scouting and hauling water prior to the season. I used to do my scouting during the season. Often, I would hunt the better part of the season before getting a chance...hopefully making it count. Now, although there are still seasons that "go long", there are more that conclude sooner than later. I've come to enjoy scouting just about as much as the actual hunt. The only difference being that I get to actually carry a gun and hopefully bring home antlers and meat for the freezer.

This year after 4 or 5 scouting / water hauling trips, my hunting partner and I found ourselves on a bench near the top of a basin. He had already killed his buck on the muzzy hunt, so he was there to "spot and haul". Thank goodness too. A couple days prior, I decided after looking at the weather report, I wasn't going to haul a tent in to our spot which is miles from any road. I just didn't want to haul any more weight than I had too, and I was still stiff from hauling out my buddy's elk earlier in the week. I always have wondered how those emergency blanket / sleeping bags work (you know, the thin foil ones), so I decided that we would hike in the Friday before the opener, find a spot to crash on the ridge I wanted to be on, put on all our warm gear, wrap up in our individual emergency bags, and beat the crowds on opening day letting them drive the deer to us as people moved up the mountain first thing in the morning.

I've got to say that those emergency bags work pretty good - you can really tell a difference inside and outside the bag. They aren't very sturdy though, and mine was hammered by the time morning came around...and having gotten to our spot at midnight after a 3.5 hour hike in...it only took about 5 hours to completely rip it to shreds with my boots and the sagebrush. Great thing was that once waking up at 6am, we were only a short 4-5 minute hike to where we wanted to sit when the sun came up.
Shooting light rolls around and the basin appears to be basically empty. We had only seen two other groups, so there didn't appear to be much pressure up the bottom of the basin or off the peak. Then about 10-15 minutes in, Josh spots a 4 point. After looking this deer over, I decided to hold off knowing there were better deer in the area. This deer moves off a bit and then 10 minutes later another 4 point follows his exact path. On seeing this deer, Josh says "Mike you're going to shoot this buck". The shot was a fairly steep downhill shot, and the second deer was moving along a lot faster than the first buck. By the time he stopped, the deer was at 370 yards. I got settled into the shooting sticks and held slightly over his back line. I was honestly surprised when the rifle went off, and Josh starting talking fast "he's down, he's down!!" After that the buck slides about 75 yards down the mountain and stops. Both of us think he is done, but oddly enough, he starts to get up again. At this point, buck fever sets in, and I am having trouble connecting with a follow-up shot. I'm only missing by a couple inches, but since I'm not lobbing fragmentation grenades, I might as well be missing by a mile. After several shots, another shot rings out across the canyon, and the buck goes down. What the??

Come to find out, a second group of three guys was down the ridge another couple hundred yards and several hundred feet in elevation (we could not see them due to the slope and topography of the ridge). They had a "new" hunter with them, and were apparently trying to get this guy a shot at the same deer, but he was having trouble getting on the buck. After this, they see the buck go down at my first shot, and then the difficulty with the follow-up. At this point, one of them is a longer range shooter, and they made the decision to put the buck down at over 400 yards because they weren't sure if we would be able to see the buck much longer. Perfect shot too...right behind the shoulder. Man, how would it be??

I've got to say, I debated on telling this side of the story. No one wants to have someone else "help" them on an animal. I firmly believe that deer was going to die (1st shot was high on the "dead zone" of the shoulder, probably grazed the top of the lungs due to the angle), but it was going to be a heck of a track job if that deer had gotten into the bottom of the canyon. Kudos to those other hunters. As we approached the deer, one of them was hot footing over to us, and I thought "oh no, here comes the confrontation". This guy was a class act though - he just said they weren't sure if we were going to be able to see the buck, and they made the decision to put it down right then and there. With that he congratulated me on the deer, took a couple photos for his group (presumably to show the newbie what he had missed out on), we shook hands, and he was on his way back to their spot. If all situations could end this way without all the angst and disappointment.

I think maybe they didn't want the deer because the pack out was a beast. We dropped over a thousand feet into the canyon to get the deer, and those thousand feet hurt on the way out. Add in the steepness of the terrain and the ever present oak brush and rock outcrops, and the pack out was pretty grueling. Not like the elk the week before, but definitely one that you feel for several days afterwards. In nine days between the general elk and deer hunts, Josh and I put 40 miles on our boots...and none of it was flat!

All in all, it's been a great year so far! Now the butterflies are setting in with the upcoming sheep hunt.

Sorry about the pics - I've got to figure out how to rotate them prior to uploading...
 

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Wow, that looks steep. Great story, cool pictures, thanks for sharing.

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That is a cool story and a dandy buck congrats again. Doesnt look like the terrain will be getting any flatter for your sheep hunt I wouldnt think. By the end of that hunt you may be part sheep yourself. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Jhartwell -
Thanks again for the help, although like I said, I think you guys were just holding off for a buck that wasn't down so far ;) Man it hurt coming out of there.

Tell your dad I said hello. Super nice guy and a class act. Maybe we'll see you guys up there again on future hunts. You can share my fire any day!
 
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